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Sales Doctor: How do I qualify applicants without sounding robotic?

Dear Sales Doctor,

I'm aware I sound robotic when qualifying an applicant and don't know how to change it; any ideas?

When an applicant calls in looking to buy or rent, often the negotiator's first question is 'what's your budget'?

I find this very impersonal and it gives the impression that their budget is all we care about.

Alternatively, the negotiator will ask 'can I register you'? This gives the applicant the impression that it's going to take ages and is frustrating and boring.

The key is to have a 'conversation, not an interrogation'. 

You need to imagine you're in a pub and your friend says: "I'm looking to move into the area." 

You wouldn't respond with "budget, number of bedrooms, time scales?" 

You'd react like a human by asking: "How come you're thinking of moving to the area? What sort of property are you looking for?"

My suggestion to sound human is as follows:

Applicant: Hi, I'm looking to rent a two-bed in 'X' area?

Negotiator: Great, well I can help with that. My name's Tony, who am I speaking with?

Applicant: Mike Smith.

Negotiator: Mike, in case we get cut off, what's the best number to reach you on?

Applicant: 07915....

Negotiator: Thanks. Can I ask who recommended you to 'X' estates? (This gets the source of the enquiry and gives the perception that you always get recommended).

Applicant: I saw your boards.

Negotiator: You mention a two-bed, tell me what type of property are you looking for?

Applicant: Ideally a new build flat.

Negotiator: OK, great. How come a two-bed?

Applicant: It's for my wife and I, we are thinking of having a baby.

Negotiator: Wonderful. What have you seen so far?

Applicant: We've seen three properties so far, all in 'X' development - the lounge was too small for us.

Negotiator: OK, so living space is important to you. What is on your wish list and what will you not compromise on?

Applicant: We must be near a station as I work in London and we must have a large living space as we like to entertain. Ideally, we would like a garden but it's not crucial.

Negotiator: OK. That gives me a good idea; what are you looking to spend per month?

Applicant: Up to £2,000 a month as a real maximum.

Negotiator: What's important to you regarding the area you live in?

Applicant: We must be in the docklands and as near to a DLR station as possible. As long as there's bars and restaurants in the area that's key.

Negotiator: OK, great. If budget allows...would you consider a three-bed?

Applicant: If I can afford it, then yes.

Negotiator: Finally, when do you need to move by?

Applicant: We've just given notice, so must move in four weeks.

Negotiator: OK, great. I've got three properties for you to see. Two are two-bed flats and one is a three-bed flat. We have had lots of interest so I'd recommend you see them this evening.

As you know, the rental market is moving very fast, we need to get a quick reference to ensure you've been a good tenant; can I get your landlord's details please? 

(Now you have the perfect opportunity to win another instruction – how many of your negotiators are doing this right now?)

I'm available at 16:45 or 18:15, what's better for you?

Applicant: Let's go for 18:15 and my landlord's details are...

Negotiator: Perfect, let me get your email address and I'll email you a confirmation to meet at our office for 18:00. I look forward to seeing you and your partner later.

Now how much of this information are you getting in your calls?

It's important to see that we are registering the applicant without asking for their permission. We have created urgency without being pushy and salesy.

By listening and asking the right questions, we have created an opportunity to win a new instruction.

Now go put this into action on your next enquiry and let me know about your results.

If you'd like to talk about how I can add value to your estate agency and provide ideas on growing your stock levels, then please email me on: tony@salesdoctors.co.uk or call me on: 020 8906 6725.

*Tony Morris is the managing director of Sales Doctors and has delivered sales training to over 5,000 negotiators across 120 estate agency firms.

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